End-of-life planning advice for LGBT couplesAround the Nation, Online Only Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Heart2Soul.com, the independent website for perspectives on death and grieving, addresses end-of-life challenges facing same-sex couples in “LGBT Issues in the Death of a Partner or Spouse” for National LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride Month.
As the debate over marriage equality continues, an emotional and legally intricate facet of same-sex relationships is often ignored: what rights does one partner have when the other dies?
The 2013 documentary “Bridegroom” underscores this point. It’s the story of same-sex couple Tom and Shane. At Tom’s death, his family stepped forward to claim control of Tom’s assets and excluded Shane from the funeral. Because the couple lacked the proper planning documents, Shane had no legal recourse.
“Many LGBT couples don’t realize this is an issue,” says Heart2Soul.com founder Karen Zinn. “Sadly, ‘Bridegroom’ happens regularly. Properly drafted plans are crucial for same-sex couples to help them make medical and financial decisions if one partner is incapacitated, protect shared assets, and even claim remains without interference.”
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, so each state has its own laws. “We recommend working with an attorney who knows your state’s LGBT statutes,” Zinn continues. “If cost is prohibitive, be sure that any information or pre-packaged kits you use come from a trusted source. Our article has tips for both scenarios.”
Joshua Slocum, Executive Director of the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance and a contributor toHeart2Soul.com adds, “Be sure to communicate your wishes to your loved ones. Even in the best situations, death can bring out emotions that lead to uncharacteristic behavior. But with proper planning and open communication, you have a better chance of having your wishes carried out.”
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